Capturing Nebulas and

Pinwheel Galaxies

Capturing light with a large sensor, Hasselblad medium format digital cameras have an advantage in its high imaging performance. The night sky captured by a Hasselblad reveals its special look which is not visible to the naked eye. We spoke to Teruyasu Kitayama, who became a landscape astrophotographer after developing an interest for astronomical objects, to talk about the charm of shooting starry skies with a medium format digital camera.

Perseid meteor shower flying over the lighthouse, 2020
X1D II 50C/XCD 21MM/ISO:3200 F4 32s (Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture)

How did you become interested in astrophotography and landscape astrophotography?

I belonged to the faculty of art at university, studying photography systematically. In my fourth year, I took a seminar by a professor who is skilled in science photography. I found that he was a big fan of astrophotography and his office was full of star and landscape photographs. Those photos caught my attention and lured me into astrophotography. I moved to Fukushima after graduation and started working with astrophotography and landscape astrophotography.

North America Nebula
H6D-100C/VIXEN VSD100 F3.8 AXD Equatorial Telescope Mount/ISO:1600 64s Image averaging of four images
(Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture)

What is your favorite part of astrophotography and landscape astrophotography?

An exciting part about astrophotography is to be able to capture the world which is invisible to the naked eye, such as light-colored nebulas and spiral galaxies. Basically the shutter must be kept open for more than 30 seconds to shoot, so I use a tripod and take a longer time to examine the subject while shooting. This gives me a whole new level of satisfaction, different from daytime shooting. Since the look of the starry sky changes depending on the season, the time and the location, I plan ahead to ensure I don’t miss the type of sky I am hoping for. This process is very satisfying to me.

A cherry blossom tree in the moonlight
H6D-100C/HC 35MM ISO:3200 F3.5 32s (Minowa, Nagano Prefecture)

In the field of astrophotography or landscape astrophotography, what differentiates you from other photographers?

In astrophotography or landscape astrophotography, RAW image processing is almost always used. Photographers tend to process the image excessively to highlight its uniqueness, while I think it’s important to reproduce the original colours of the stars as naturally as possible. I always try to have my work carry the impression of the starry sky being seen with the naked eye.

Compared to normal full frame cameras, what is the advantage of Hasselblad medium format digital cameras in astrophotography and landscape astrophotography?

It is amazing that with a Hasselblad camera, there are so many pixels remaining in the image even after cropping. Therefore, you can edit the image to make small astronomical objects look bigger, or you can even solve vignetting, a common issue in astrophotography, by cropping.

In astrophotography and landscape astrophotography, its higher dynamic range and its capability to contain more information in RAW data than other cameras are also great advantages. For example, if you try landscape astrophotography during the night without moonlight, most of the details in the dark are usually lost. When you have a subject that you want to highlight in the image, you would have to set up the lighting for it, but this makes the image look artificial and unnatural. However, with Hasselblad, colour tones are rarely lost even after you execute RAW image processing to brighten up the dark area. As a result, the details look natural in the image.

In astrophotography, you first need to align the polar axis of your equatorial telescope mount before shooting. The more accurate the polar alignment is, the longer the shutter speed is that can be tracked. However, special equipment and sufficient experience are required to align accurately. One of the alternative techniques is to use short exposure to take multiple photos and then put the photos together. In this way, the insufficient exposure can be compensated for later. Hasselblad medium format digital cameras support high dynamic range, enabling it to capture rich information even with a short exposure time. Therefore, using this technique with a Hasselblad camera, you can shoot beautiful stellar photographs.

Pinwheel Galaxy
H6D-100C/VIXEN VSD100 F3.8 AXD Equatorial Telescope Mount ISO:1600 64s Image averaging of four images
(Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture)
Shooting with H6D-100C

Can you share any advice to those who want to try astrophotography?

Many of you might think that astrophotography is difficult, but today’s digital cameras can take very clear pictures even in high sensitivity mode and also it’s not difficult to capture the star light if you use long exposure. Of course some equipment such as an equatorial telescope mount and a strongly-built tripod are required if you want to take a beautiful stellar photograph, but let’s just start with your own camera in your hand and try to capture the dark night sky with a 30 second shutter speed. You will open the door to the world of the starry skies that you can never see with the naked eye.

H6D-100C/VIXEN VSD100 F3.8 AXD Equatorial Telescope Mount/ISO:1600 64s Image averaging of four images
(Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture)
Rosset Nebula
H6D-100C/VIXEN VSD100 F3.8 AXD Equatorial Telescope Mount/ISO:1600 32s Image averaging of four images
(Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture)
Milky Way in Minamiizu
907X 50C/XCD 21MM ISO800 F4 128s
(Minamiizu, Shizuoka Prefecture)


Born in Tokyo in 1986, Teruyasu Kitayama is a landscape astrophotographer and videographer. He graduated from the Department of Photography, at the College of Art at Nihon University. Teruyasu became an independent landscape astrophotographer after working in sales at an astronomical telescope manufacturer. He gives photography seminars across the country while writing for the astronomy journal “Hoshi Navi.” He also runs “NIGHT PHOTO TOURS” offering classroom lectures and workshops on night shooting including landscape astrophotography. Visit his website or Facebook page for more details.

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